CONCORD, N.C. – It was well past midnight when Kyle Busch won the Camping World Truck race Saturday morning.
But the fireworks started well before the green flag fell. Accusations of sabotage on the Nos. 18 and 3 trucks quickly spread through the garage after loose lugnuts were discovered on both vehicles.
The No. 18 team was able to make the necessary adjustments prior to the race. Eric Phillips, crew chief for Busch and the No. 18, did not have a good answer for what happened to his truck.
"We're 99 percent sure they were tight," Phillips said. "As loose as the wheel was, there was no way he (Kyle Busch) would have qualified. What happened? I don't know. We fixed it, addressed it and it didn't hinder us on what we did tonight, so that's the important part.
"We'll just do a better job to make sure our guys are around our vehicles and keep an eye on things when they're sitting outside of the garage area."
Both Charlotte Motor Speedway and NASCAR have surveillance cameras throughout the garage that sufficiently cover the confines. Security guards at the gates limit the access to workers and guests holding hard cards/licenses or credentials. But the alleged incidents could have happened only following qualifying, which ended around 4:30 p.m., and before the race started five hours later, due to the rain delay, while the trucks sat covered between the pit wall and garage area.
Austin Dillon felt something was wrong with the truck as soon as he was up to speed. Ten laps into the race, the No. 3 slammed into the wall.
"They left the left-rear lugs loose," said Dillon, who finished 35th. "We don't know what happened. I guess Kyle Busch had trouble with his too before the race. I don't know if we didn't check 'em or what or if it was like that in qualifying.
"It's really wild. I mean you can look at the left rear and see how much it wallowed out. I drove it for too long, but I guess the rookie part of it was not knowing the vibration. I had a vibration in three and four and not pulling in a lap earlier. It's a tough deal. A little hard-headed on my part. Should have never been in the situation to begin with."
RCR's vice president of competition, Mike Dillon, said the lugnuts were torqued "before qualifying and just before the truck was taken to impound." Dillon says it was the team's responsibility to check the lugnuts on the No. 3 Silverado before the race, particularly after Busch's truck was tampered with.
NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton agrees with Mike Dillon. He doesn't believe there was a saboteur involved in Friday night's ordeal or a disgruntled official or employee. The former Sprint Cup crew chief thinks the loose lugnuts were simply a crew error.
"It's the team responsibility to torque the lugnuts prior to the cars or trucks rolling off for competition," Pemberton said. "It's one of the last things a team marks off their checklist before a race whether the car goes through impound or not."